Minutes - General Meeting, April 25, 2018

RaisingVoicesUSA General Meeting - April 25, 2018

Saving the Earth: Think Globally, Act Locally

Welcome from Cindy and Emma

Our thanks to environmental committee for organizing this meeting

Brief overview of RVUSA:

  • We are a RVC-based organization begun the day after the presidential election out of a feeling that something needed to be done

  • Assembled a group of like-minded people committed to informed civic engagmenet

  • Whirlwind of activity, information & hard work over the last year and a half

    • Formed committees and task forces

    • Participated in protests, meetings, held evenings of advocacy and sent over 3000 postcards

    • Our local lawmakers know us, know our name, welcome our engagement and engage with us regularly

  • None of us can keep track of and respond to everything that’s going on at once, but working together and creating a network of people helps us to be informed and take action on the issues that matter to us

  • Members have been actively involved in local campaigns and have had an impact on those outcomes with historic wins in Nassau COunty, including one of our own members elected as Hempstead Town Supervisor - we look forward to doing the same this November

  • We are now incorporated in state of NY - 501C-4

  • Kicking off our fundraising drive this evening thanks to the work of our Treasurer Liz Dion

    • Giving away logo canvas bags with a $25 donation (helping to reduce plastic waste here in RVC!)

    • We thank those who have already made a contribution and hope those who have not will consider doing so

Introducing Sara & Stacey, chairs of the environmental committee

Remarks from Sara:

  • Plastic was invented in 1905 - 96% still exists today

  • 2% was incinerated but discovered that doing so caused even more environmental pollution

  • Plastic never decomposes - it breaks down and pervades our environment

  • You will hear tonight about how we can reduce, remove, and recycle plastics in our daily lives - check the handout for additional tips and tricks

  • Our goal as environmentalists is to care for, protect, and heal our planet

First speaker: Chris Hobbs

Graduate of the Climate Reality Project founded by Al Gore

  • He and Michael Blumberg are contributing the financial commitment for Paris Accord

Realities of global warming:

  • Shared charts showing change in average temperature from 1880s to now, and shrinkage of the arctic from 1979 to now

  • Antarctica losing 118 billion metric tons of ice per year - 3000 tons every hour

  • Glaciers lose 400 billion tons of ice per year since 1994

  • Greenland ice sheet loses 281 billion tons of ice per year - threatens the land masses with rising sea levels

How will this ice melt impact Long Island?

  • Shorter, wetter winters and hotter summers

  • Rising seas and storm surges threatening shorelines

  • Rising temperatures will affect planting/agriculture - hardiness zones have already shifted since 1967

    • Already 20 days less frost per year

    • Native trees are no longer growing wild, while import trees like crape myrtles and magnolias can now survive in our warmer climate

  • Salt intrusion in gardens and aquifers, shallow wells; salt spray damage from storms weakening/burning trees and plants

  • Globally, sea levels have risen 8 inches in the last 100 years, 3 of those 8 inches in the last 20 years

    • Areas on the south shore are projected to see stronger storms with rising, spreading flooding and increased flood risk

    • Expected to rise further several inches in the next 15 years and 1-4 feet by 2100

    • NY could see 1-5 inches by the 2020s; low-lying areas like Freeport and Mastic could be underwater in our lifetime

  • Increasing temps cause “brown tides” - warming, polluted water with brown algal blooms that are deadly to fish and other sea life

  • Coastal marshes could be flooded out completely; eliminate wildlife habitats and protection for other coastal areas

  • Barrier islands could be cut off completely by flooding

  • Major flooding will become more common during high tides in low-lying areas, bring in sand and debris

  • Average water temperatures have been steadily increasing around long island - up by at least 1 degree - adversely affects cold water fish populations

  • Growing season 33 days longer than it was in colonial times

  • Increase in hurricane activity

    • projected to have at least 3 per year in NY

    • caused by ocean churning of warmer water, allows storms to become stronger and last longer rather than losing strength over open water

    • 8% rise in major hurricanes over last 30 years

  • Increasing heavy rainfalls - up 5% by 2020s

    • “Rain bombs” due to increased humidity and temperature - massive quantities of rain dropped in extremely short periods of time

      • Occurred in 204 in Islip - 11+ inches of rain dropped in 3 hours

    • 70% increase in rainfall across the entire northeast

  • Increased acidity in ocean water causing sea life die-off

  • Longer warm seasons increase insect populations - increasing danger of insect-born disease (west nile, lyme, etc.)

  • Increasing dangers of loss of property and human life

How you can help:

  • Plant trees

    • Trees absorb carbon in the atmosphere and help clean the air

      • Each tree generates enough oxygen for 2 people per year

    • Reduce temperatures by planting along paved areas

    • Block and soften winds

  • Install solar water heater to replace gas/electric heater - affordable and can significantly reduce energy usage

  • Get involved with local environmental groups

    • NYS department of environmental conservation

    • Operation Splash - run by Bob Weltner, based in Freeport, go out in boats to retrieve trash from the local waterways, very open to volunteers

  • Use raised planting beds and fresh water to flush salt from plantings on your property

Second speaker: Helen Roussel

Conservation chair for Sierra Club Long Island

About the Sierra Club

  • Mission:

    • To explore, enjoy, and protect the wild places of the earth;

    • To practice and promote the responsible use of the earth's ecosystems and resources;

    • To educate and enlist humanity to protect and restore the quality of the natural and human environment; and to use all lawful means to carry out these objectives.

  • Projects and campaigns are selected and planned by a committee but can be suggested by anyone

  • Community Preservation Fund (https://www.lisierraclub.org/cpf) - real estate tax earmarked to preserve land threatened by climate change

    • Raised over $375mil in East Hampton, saved 2200 acres of land that would otherwise have been developed; full 5 towns area (Riverhead, Southold, Southampton, East Hampton and Shelter Island) raised over 1 billion and saved over 10,000 acres

    • promoted, educated and enacted through the efforts of volunteers - phone banking, etc.

    • Want to expand this across all of LI - call your legislators to ask them to co-sponsor and push for this pass the NY Assembly

  • Other campaigns:

    • Campaign against astroturf in local school sports fields (https://www.lisierraclub.org/synthetic-turf) educational campaign to eliminate harmful plastic/rubber materials in these facilities

    • Campaign against using methoprene spray (https://www.lisierraclub.org/methoprene) - insecticide used to stop mosquito larva from maturing and potentially spreading west nile)

      • disrupts marine and terrestrial food webs

        • All ecosystems are connected - a negative impact on one part of an ecosystem affects all the others

      • Spraying not done in areas where west nile-carrying mosquitos would actually thrive; was damaging sea life which eventually damaged sea bird populations

      • Urban areas with areas of pooling/still fresh water are in more danger of west nile, but have mostly been ignored in favor of spraying along the shore lines

  • Sierra Club working with CUNY to map solar panel usage on LI - encourage installing  solar panels in open areas (parking lots, open town areas, etc.) as well as having residents install them on their own homes

  • Have an energy audit performed on your home to find places you can improve efficiency, reduce energy usage, identify carbon monoxide risks and/or methane leaks

  • Clean Energy Communities Program - encourage communities to pursue energy saving/renewable energy projects; goal is to have 100 communities receive a Clean Energy Standard designation (currently 88 have received the clean energy standard designation and are eligible for grant money)

  • Future projects:

    • Plant hedges and trees around agricultural fields

    • Encourage nitrate/pesticide-free lawns and lawn care

    • Protect forested areas

    • Subsidize organic forms/stop subsidizing petroleum-based farms

  • New legislation - NYS Dragonfly Day - June 9 (https://www.lisierraclub.org/dragonfly-day)

    • Sentinel species that indicate health of marsh lands based on size of the population

    • Event at the Children’s Museum @ South Fork Natural History Museum

Third speaker: Karen Johnson

Leading plastic bag ban initiative in RVC and Lynbrook with All Our Energy (already passed in Long Beach)

  • The average person uses 500 plastic checkout bags per year; in RVC we use about 12mil every year

  • Plastic bags that go in our recycle bins don’t actually get recycled - less than 5% are ever recycled

  • Most effective way to reduce usage of these bags is to implement a fee

  • Saw the film “Bag It” and decided to push for a ban locally

  • Governor Cuomo proposed a bill to ban plastic bags; actually undermines stronger local laws

  • Group activities:

    • meeting with the community monthly, attending events

    • speaking with local merchants (visited 200+ since January)

    • Hosted screenings of “Bag It” at TotC

    • Marched in LI St. Patricks Day parade

    • Having an event at Tanglewood Environmental Center

    • Will petition at farmers market

  • Comments from George Poville, executive director of All Our Energy (http://www.allourenergy.com/)

    • Work with local people at a grassroots level

    • Sierra Club is working to support the plastic bag campaign

    • Beginning this campaign in Lynbrook and seeing significant signs of support

    • Speak to your local merchants and let them know you support a bag ban; let them know it won’t affect their business adversely

    • It has worked in other towns, it can work here

Member comment:

Ed MacDougal - look into Golden Earthworm CSA (http://goldenearthworm.com/our-csa-program/)

  • 4 dropoff locations in RVC

  • pay at the beginning of the season and you get a box of organic produce weekly from Memorial Day through Thanksgiving

  • check to see if they have spaces open for this season

Closing thoughts from CIndy and Emma:

  • The facts in Chris’s presentation are bleak, but knowledge is power and awareness drives change.

  • Simple swaps to make in your own home to make a difference:

    • Metal water bottles to replace plastic

    • Reusable snack bags instead of plastic zipper bags

    • Bees wrap instead of plastic wrap (wax coated fabric wraps)

    • Reusable mesh shopping bags - ecobags.com

  • Keep talking to businesses, neighbors, etc. about adopting sustainable practices

  • RVC has no current plan to install solar panel grids in parking lots, etc. - we are working with town leadership to encourage this

  • Reminder: local officials will listen if they hear the same things from many people, so keep raising your voice!

  • Remember to contact Stacey and Sarah if you’d like to join the environmental committee, get more involved and suggest activities.

  • Reminder: next meeting on May 23 for an LGTBQI-themed meeting

Long Island Environmental Organizations